I Make Pastry to Brighten Somebody’s Day
A chat with Culinary Arts Academy student from Sweden/ Thailand
While interning at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok, Thanida Miyai is soaking up all the knowledge before returning to the Culinary Arts Academy campus for term 3. With a personality as sweet as her pastries, Thanida says there’s nothing better than baking a cake and bringing a smile to somebody’s face.
We sat down to talk about the lessons and challenges of her internship in Asia, living and studying in Switzerland, and her plans for the future. Find out that and more in the interview below!
Hi, Thanida! What are you like as a person?
People say I am someone they’re comfortable with and can rely on, and I see myself as primarily a team player. Working together, I think, gets us farther in life than playing it solo. Also, I love exploring the unknown, both the world around me and the paths in my career… I just love the feeling when you learn something new!
Why did you decide to study at the Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland?
I came to Switzerland to study baking and pastry art because I didn’t think I could acquire the skills and knowledge I sought back home. After researching the many culinary schools in Sweden and then throughout Europe, I came to the conclusion that none of them offered what I was looking for.
Cesar Ritz and its Culinary Arts Academy, on the other hand, caught my attention because of the variety of culinary techniques they were teaching their students, particularly in term 3.
What kind of impact would you hope to make in your field in the future?
I am not sure if I can make a significant difference in the culinary field. However, with every pastry that I bake, my biggest hope is that it makes someone’s day better. As a person who has been baking as a hobby, I find true happiness in seeing other people enjoying my pastries.
Now that you’ve been studying at the Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland for two terms, are you happy with your choice?
Absolutely. As a home baker, there was a limit to how much I could learn by myself. I often wondered why my cakes didn’t turn out the same even when I did everything the same. Coming to this school has given me all the answers.
I’ve learned that something as basic as how you beat eggs can make a world of difference in how the pastries turn out, how bread gets compact when kneading the dough for too long, and so much more. This kind of knowledge has helped me create pastries of higher quality, and the more I learn, the better my creations become.
I would say that coming to Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland is one of the best choices I have made.
That’s awesome to hear! Would you mind sharing with us what is it like to live and study at the Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland?
At Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland, you are surrounded by welcoming and helpful people from around the world. I have quickly made many friends as we all share a passion for culinary art.
The school’s staff is very accommodating. They try to answer all your questions, and if they can’t, they will direct you to someone who most likely can. The chef-instructors are always available when you have questions for them, and the career coach will help you choose the right career path, whether you want to try working in a small bakery or a five-star luxury hotel.
And on top of that, the school’s location offers breathtaking scenic views!
How did your school help you decide which internship to pursue?
When it was time to decide where to do my internship, I wanted to choose wisely. I wanted to use this opportunity to gain as much knowledge as possible technique-wise and learn how to operate in a professional kitchen working with a team.
Luckily, we had our career coach, who often sent out emails about different places that had positions available, and the school also organized various recruitment events where we could meet with representatives of the many distinguished restaurants. It was a massive help from the academy.
Why does, in your opinion, your school place such importance on internships?
There are many things in a workplace that you can’t learn at school. I think my school recognizes that, too, and aims to give us an all-rounded education by helping to find internship opportunities that best fit their students’ goals.
In school, you have a teacher to support you and help you solve every issue that you stumble upon. But interning at a 5-star luxury hotel, where guests can get what they expect and more, I’ve learned first-hand that you need to be able to make haste decisions and find solutions to challenging requests at any moment, often all on your own.
Why did you choose to intern in Thailand, and how does it align with your professional goals for the future?
I have always dreamt of opening a pastry shop of my own in my home country Thailand. I wanted to get acquainted with the current standards of pastries in Thailand and learn how local pastry trends compare to Europe.
The reason I chose the luxurious five-starred Four Seasons Bangkok, in particular, was because of their idea of hospitality. Their motto is to deal with others, whether a guest, customer, business associate or colleague, as you would wish them to deal with you. And that is an ideal that I share with Four Seasons.
Are kitchen practices in Thailand different from those in Europe?
One thing that I noticed was that in Europe, people don’t often wear gloves when making pastries. In school, we were taught to wash our hands before handling food, like when cutting fruits to decorate cakes, but in Thailand, they wear gloves instead.
Four Seasons takes hygiene very seriously. If the customer sees that you don’t wear gloves, they might question the place’s hygiene. It is understandable, though, because Thailand is a warm country where bacteria can proliferate because of the heat.
Could you walk us through a day in your internship at Four Seasons Bangkok?
Every day is the same but… different! It takes about an hour to get to work by Skytrain from where I live. Once I arrive at the hotel, I go to my locker and change into the hotel uniform.
As I am assigned to the pastries for the hotel lounge outlet, my work begins by finishing the pastries that need to be sent to the café at 9 am. After that, it is time to make pastries for the lobby lounge and check the show pieces. Then I check the so-called Mise en place* list and see what our outlet is running out to order new supplies.
*THE 5 STEPS TO MISE EN PLACE
Know your recipe (ingredients, tools, and required cooking times)
Prepare ingredients (clean, slice, mince, etc.)
Afterwards, I proceed with the tasks. Usually, I make inserts, sponges, ganache or glazes for our outlet and assemble different cakes (it is a lot like what we did in school, just on a bigger scale). That is usually what a day looks like. Oh, and there are also two 30-60 min meal breaks in between, as we have 10-hour work days.
You said every day is also different. What did you mean by that?
A hotel as big as Four Seasons always has some kind of event or show. For example, if there is a five days event for a clothing brand, they might order pastries for their guests. To prepare, we often have to work a whole week before.
See, when there’s a big event planned, the hotel provides the client with a food tasting. Once the client is satisfied with the product, we begin to make preparations. Such one-off events are always stressful for our outlet as we have to produce pastries for the event on top of checking the stock of our usual outlet. But that makes it fun to work here. Nobody wants to have the same workday every day!
What have you learned during your internship at Four Seasons?
I’ve learned much about working in the kitchen — everything from predicting demand to efficiently assembling foods. The most important lesson, however, was learning the highest hygiene standards. The school has taught us a lot about it, but it is something that one forgets the most once it gets busy in the kitchen. You get so focused on finishing the pastries that things like labelling the products or FIFO** all the products you take can slip your mind from time to time.
**FIFO – “First in, first out” method, where you place the products you’ve taken out in the front, so the next person knows they’ve already been opened/used; this avoids opening 10 packets of the same thing at once and potentially wasting them all.
Thank you, Thanida, for the sweet talk! We wish you all the best, and hopefully, the next time we meet, it be in your newly opened pastry shop!